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By CHRIS HILL
Friday, December 21, 2012
Whether you want to exercise away the excesses of the season or use the time off work to reacquaint yourself with the region’s stunning scenery, Christmas is the perfect time to wrap up warm for a walk in the countryside.
Rural affairs correspondent CHRIS HILL suggests 10 of his favourites.
Foxley Wood, off the A1067 between Norwich and Fakenham, is the largest area of ancient woodland remaining in Norfolk.
Its wide rides, originally created to allow the movement of felled timber, make excellent paths delving deep into the rich woodland, where more than 250 species of flora have been recorded. A series of waymarked nature trails start from the car park at the entrance of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve, with the longest taking about one hour to walk.
The Mausoleum Walk around Blickling Park gives a perfect cross-section of the landscapes, buildings and history of this famous country estate near Aylsham.
There are glimpses of the magnificent Jacobean mansion and its beautiful lake and gardens, but the walk focuses on the Tower, built for the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, and the Mausoleum, built to commemorate the Earls death in 1793.
The 1.8-mile walk, way-marked with red arrows, contains plenty of places to stop for a breather and no steep hills, making it ideal for most abilities.
This circular coastal walk north of Great Yarmouth brings about eight miles of varied scenery and a chance to visit the seal colony at Horsey.
Park near the Nelson Head pub and walk towards the sea until you reach the dunes, before turning left along the beach to look for the seals living along this part of the coast.
At the National Trust car park, turn left again to walk inland between fields and along a dyke to a ruined mill, and around the edge of Horsey Mere. The path will lead you to the five-storey Horsey Windpump with its striking view across the mere, and then its back along a permissive footpath for a pint at the pub where you started.
Holkham and Wells
For endless expanses of sand, sea and sky, kit yourself out for a bracing few hours exposed to the elements between Holkham and Wells in north Norfolk.
Park at Lady Annes Drive, opposite the Victoria Hotel in Holkham, where the path will take you to the wide open spaces of Holkham Bay beloved of tourists, migrating birds and Hollywood location scouts.
Follow the sands eastwards for about two miles, when you will reach the lifeboat station at Wells-next-the-Sea, with views across the harbour and salt marshes. From here, either return to Holkham through the pinewoods along the Norfolk Coast Path, or head into Wells for fish and chips and catch the Coasthopper bus back to your car.
Breckland pingo trail
An intriguing landscape with remnants of the ice age can be discovered with a six-mile walk along an old railway course outside Thompson, near Watton.
A car park off the A1075 is the start of a walk to the old railway-keepers cottage near Crow Farm, heading right to pick up the main Peddars Way trail to Thompson Water. Keep the lake on your right and look out for signs for the Great Eastern Pingo Trail, which takes you through the Thompson Common nature reserve. This occasionally-boggy stretch brings you past curious pingos small, wildlife-rich craters created by underground bubbles during the last ice age 20,000 years ago.
The Royal estate at Sandringham
See why the Queen chooses Sandringham as her annual Christmas retreat, by sampling some of the joys of the Royal estate. The Sandringham Country Park itself has two waymarked woodland nature trails, of 1.5 and 2.5 miles. But venture a little further and you could explore the wild lowland mire of Dersingham Bog, with its rare plants and dragonflies and woodland glades which attract crossbills, long-eared owls and sparrowhawks. Also within a couple of miles is the former train station at Wolferton, which welcomed generations of Royals to Norfolk from 1862 until its closure in 1969.
Riverside Walk in Norwich
Urban dwellers need not look too far for a bit of festive exercise, as Norwichs Riverside Walk offers a pathway to the citys medieval heritage.
Landmarks include the defensive lookout of Cow Tower, the 15th-century water gate of Pulls Ferry, the 13th-century Adam and Eve pub, and Bishops Bridge, the citys oldest surviving river crossing.
And there are plenty of opportunities to shorten walks by heading back into the city centre, or to take diversions to Norwichs numerous other charms like Bridewell Alley, Elm Hill or Norwich Cathedral.
Wherrymans Way and Breydon Water
Big sky views across Breydon Water and Halvergate marshes can be seen by walking the 5.5-mile section of the Wherrymans Way from Great Yarmouth to the Berney Arms station and then taking the train back to your starting point.
The walk takes in the Berney Marshes RSPB Reserve and the Berney Arms Mill. If you really want to push yourself, you could carry on another four miles to Reedham station and enjoy some more classic Broads landscapes before getting your train back to Yarmouth.
A very short wander but one to savour slowly is through the twitchers paradise of Cley Marshes. Although the north Norfolk reserve draws flocks of binocular-toting visitors to watch the internationally-renowned multitude of bird life, it is very easy for anyone to get close to nature here by listening to the bird calls and the whispering reeds.
Afterwards, you could enjoy the panoramic views from the eco-friendly visitor centre, or add an extra short walk along the coastal path to Blakeney harbour.
Caistor St Edmund
Follow in the footsteps of Queen Boudica by exploring the ruins of the Roman town at Caistor St Edmund, just south of Norwich.
Venta Icenorum, known as the market-place of the Iceni was the most important Roman centre in northern East Anglia. It was founded about 1700 years ago and would have been a large bustling market town.
Pack a picnic and put on some sturdy boots before taking on the ditches and banks that remain of the ancient fortress, set in beautiful South Norfolk countryside.
View Xmas walks in a larger map